Discovering the Ship Before Blackbeard

Before Queen Anne's Revenge became Blackbeard's flagship it was a slave trade ship

March 28, 2019  

Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge

If you’re from North Carolina, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge. It’s the ship the pirate Blackbeard captured and used as his flagship before it struck a sandbar in 1718 not far off the coast of North Carolina, near Beaufort. A few months after the grounding, Blackbeard was killed in a battle with British naval forces in the Pamlico Sound. The wreck was discovered in 1996.

Divers and archaeologists from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources have been recovering items from the sea floor. After years of official uncertainty, North Carolina officials confirmed in 2011 that the wreck was indeed the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Exploring the Lesser-Known History

 Now a new project from the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission will explore the ship’s lesser-known history before the notorious pirate captured it in 1717. La Concorde was a French slave ship that sailed transatlantic roots from France to Africa and the Caribbean. From 1713-1717, the ship transported thousands of African men, women, and children as part of the intercontinental slave trade. 

Blackbeard forced the ship’s surgeon to join the pirate crew. It’s likely the doctor would have carried apothecary weights as part of his medical supplies. Those weights, stamped with the symbol of 18th century France, tiny fleurs-de-lis, were recovered by divers in the shipwreck. The weights helped identify the ship.

The new project will review archaeological, archival and historical research of the ship in the years before Blackbeard commandeered it. Researchers will also create an educational framework to improve the interpretation of African American history in North Carolina. The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, a federal grant program, is supporting the project

 —Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.